Gamox Murkcutter considered himself a sturdy goblin, and a worthy knight under Visefist the Goblin King. Gamox had grown up with both parents members of the city guard, and the three of them sparred often as a hobby, a way to pass the time. He began his defense training at twelve, two years earlier than most goblins. The training was intense for a goblin so much smaller than his comrades, but Gamox turned this to his advantage, focusing on nimble evasion turning the momentum of an attackers blows against them, throwing them off balance with the slightest motion. He had held on to this fighting style all his life, it now defined his very being.
Now he faced his greatest challenge so far. The king had requested Gamox visit the Dwarven people, competitors with the Goblins through ages past. Naturally the dwarves met announcement of Gamox’s arrival with the issue of a challenge from their greatest warrior. Gamox had no choice but to accept and found himself locked against a fierce dwarf, blade to blade. The combat had gone nowhere since its start an hour ago. Dwarven unity with the firm ground of the rocky arena held the dwarf fast against every unbalancing blow Gamox sent her way. At the same time, she could land no blow against him, every swing lightly parried, every stab evaded nimbly…
Trillia rests nestled in a system at the outside edge of a spiral galaxy, swirling at high speeds through the expanding blackness of the universe. The eternal rotation of the galaxy swings its arms through many light years of space. This motion has brought Trillia near many different realms since it coalesced from the cosmic dust. Early in its history Trillia moved through space uninterrupted, allowing life on the planet to develop and diversify, giving rise to its many fantastic forms. Ancient dragons were born with longevity and intelligence, taking it upon themselves to guard nature on the planet. Over time, other sentient forms began to emerge, and band together in society. Under the watchful eye of the elder dragons they built carefully, preserving space for nature and maintaining hunter-gatherer tribes.
Unbeknownst to the inhabitants of the world, they were hurtling toward another galaxy, known as The Far Realm. Soon visible to those early inhabitants of Trillia, the psionic crystals of the Living Gate surrounding the Far Realm glistened in the heavens. The world of Trillia witnessed brilliant crimson flashes of light and the deafening thunder of cosmic bodies tearing into the edge of the Living Gate. The energy from the crash brought asteroids and small planets of the Far Realm close to Trillia, one major asteroid tearing into the depths of a continent, rending it. The asteroid brought with it demented creatures of the Far Realm who immediately set to terrorizing Trillia, corrupting sentient creatures and beasts with their maddening energy. Through dark magicks the Far Realm invaders linked Trillia to the Shadowfell, which shares some of their dark madness. Global war errupted, and the dragons used all their might to rally the races of Trillia and defeat the outsiders. Though victory saved much of the world, it was irreversibly changed. The asteroid had brought the planet’s rotation to a grinding halt, plunging one face into eternal night, while the other face sweltered in eternal day, the area livable by most creatures dwindling to the twilight between the two. The dragons divided after the planetary change, dragon clans adopting particular environments to guard and protect. Civilization was sundered, each of the major races previously had a distinct realm, and they were relegated to only those areas, as the areas between quickly became inhospitable with changing climate.
Millennia have passed since this great war, leaving it as a distant memory of myth for most races. Details of the events fade even with the dragons, who have become isolated from each other, clinging to their chosen lairs. Now a new era sets upon Trillia as it moves closer to the Shadowfell galaxy. The ties to the Shadowfell created in the Ancient War are strengthening, and the shadows sometimes stretch beyond their usual limits. The great green dragons of the twilight have taken note, and seek to unite their brethren and prevent another episode of global trauma like the first. It is in these times that a group of travellers from Gorskall banded together to forever change life on Trillia.
Does anyone else have a hard time giving their players loot? I always feel a little awkward about giving monsters a stack of coins or something like that, in fact I’d like to keep gold as a reward quite rare in my campaign.
Last session I did spontaneously decide on a longsword with a jeweled hilt from some skeletons ripped out of the shadowfell, and I’m aiming for this to be quite a valuable item so I don’t have to give out too much at other times if I don’t feel it’s appropriate. I guess that’s a cost for picking a bunch of wilderness encounters.
My main feeling is that I should give any reward at least a chance of being significant. The sword they picked up doesn’t have any magic, but I am prepared to give it some backstory and drive into the plot if the players choose to investigate.
I also want to keep magic items kind of tight in hand, and have opted for the inherent bonuses described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2. I like the idea of characters holding up against the monster curve regardless of equipment they have; This leaves me the power to introduce more strategic items like the bag of holding.
I also like the idea of boons and grandmaster training… perhaps I should even drop hooks for players take training and gain boons that are their speed. Magic items are supposed to give players customization, but it’s no stretch to imagine meaningful story customization if they seek the favour of a particular god, or weapon training, or poison endurance strategies. The party has set themselves up for a clerical blessing against undead, and I’ll include a couple other boon hooks next session. I can really see this as path to character development; many trainers ask taxing tasks of their trainees, and a hunt for rare reagents puts story investment in that bonus! If the characters really dig it, you could find enough material and hooks to constantly be questing for development!
I do my best to read just a little about DMing every day to keep the new ideas and strategies flowing. Just yesterday I stumbled upon the idea that when preparing extra encounters to use when players go off the path, to use places like cellars. I guess some of the civilization related dungeons were off my radar. To the point: I want to brainstorm some appropriate ideas for Trillia.
-The cellar seems like a good one… I imagined most of the houses to be built quite low, so they might often need cellars for storage space.
-Warehouse: this one can be good in a big city, if there are corrupt leaders, or a local gang. A food warehouse in a small settlement could suffer a strange infestation.
-Ruins: Out of town, in town, I want these things everywhere for the flavour of my world.
-Rivers: We’ve had a river encounter already, but perhaps the rivers serve as an important trackway into the mountains. Rivers often mean reasonable terrain, and fresh water is right there, so who needs to build more roads?
-Marshes: We’ve had one of these too. Perhaps another peat bog, more of a skill challenge, where crossing risks the chance of instantly being swallowed up.
-Thickets: Perhaps an animal den or in use as a hideout for bandits.
-Caves: The current setting features coastline, foothills and mountains… it’s a wonder they haven’t found a cave yet. I’ve stated sea travel is rare, but a secret group of sailors who make use of some sea caves could be cool.
Deep forest: This could serve as a navigation challenge, a tracking challenge, or home to some mysterious beast.
Town hall: Or a higher political power… I haven’t really thrown the players any political encounters yet, so it would be fun to try something new.
That’s all I’ve got for now… suggestions welcome!
I feel like this is my greatest area of challenge. Reviewing the DM guide reminded me to engage multiple senses, and use descriptions for foreshadowing and to build tension… I guess short term foreshadowing is the best case scenario… bring up a particular smell or sound associated with a particular monster early in a dungeon, then bring it back again later, like as a climax or anticlimax.